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Americans May Be Getting Fat Because We're Cleaning Less, Researchers Say

Update Date: Mar 01, 2013 09:30 AM EST

A group of researchers says that part of the reason for the obesity epidemic in the United States comes from an unlikely place: cleaning products. However, the study is receiving about as much attention from the source of its funding as it is for its conclusion.

According to ABC News, researchers started by examining 91 different activities, everything from walking the dog to going to the gym, and they found that the only activity that increased energy expenditure was performing household chores. So they focused on that.

The study compared activity logs from stay-at-home women, starting in 1965 and extending into today. They found that, in 1965, women spent an average of 25.7 hours a week, pushing heavy vacuums, dusting, mopping and cooking. That has been cut down to 13.3 hours in 2010.

According to Health, the difference in the number of calories burned is significant. In 1965, women burned 4,663 calories in a week by performing household shores, amounting to 666 calories a day. In 2010, women burned a relatively paltry 2,806 calories a week, or 400 calories a day.

Not surprisingly, the same study found that the average woman is 22 pounds heavier than her 1965 counterpart.

Researchers say that technological innovations like the microwave and the dishwasher have helped make household chores less physically intensive. That has freed up the modern woman to spend more time looking at screens - the computer, television, or the tablet - which means that she spends more time sitting. In fact, the study found that modern women spend twice as much time looking at screens than their 1965 counterparts did; modern women also spend more time with our screens than on cooking, cleaning and laundry combined.

However, researchers say that they do not want the take-away message from their study to be that women are gaining weight because they are cleaning less. Instead, they say that women - as well as men and children - should try to find ways of incorporating physical activity into their day.

Some critics of the study note that obesity is caused by a variety of factors, including not only physical activity, but also diet, genetics and economic factors. Some also take issue with the source of funding, as one of the funders is none other than beverage company Coca Cola.

"It makes no sense for Coca-Cola to be funding studies on causes of obesity because they are one of the causes for obesity," Kelly Brownell, from Yale University, said to ABC News. "It would be like taking money from the tobacco industry to find other causes of lung cancer. It really makes no sense at all."

The study was published in the journal PLOS One.

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